To effectively engage in rapid decision-making, you must first know your ultimate objective.

4 Tips for Rapid Decision-Making

Productivity Priorization & Balance

Sometimes rapid decision-making is easier said than done, but with a process in mind — and resources to seek — you may become more confident in doing so.

If you work in a fast-paced work environment, rapid decision-making, or making decisions on the fly, is likely part of your job. You don’t always have as much time as you would like to make decisions, so it can be beneficial to have a decision-making process already in place that will help you make the right decisions more quickly. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, using a “know-think-do” process enables you to eliminate decision fatigue and make appropriate decisions quickly. With this process in mind, you may just feel better prepared to make tough decisions, big or small.

1. Know Your Objective

Knowing your objective — in other words, knowing what you specifically want to achieve — can help you eliminate much of the noise that is involved in decision-making. Once you focus on your ultimate strategic, rather than tactical, objective, the criteria for your decision will be much more apparent. For example, if your strategic objective is to grow a particular product’s revenue by 10 percent by year end, your decision regarding whether to hire or use existing personnel will focus on a different set of criteria than if your strategic objective was to reduce that product’s cost by 10 percent.

2. Consider Different Perspectives

All human beings are subject to biases and inclinations based on beliefs and experiences, although some are more aware of these than others. You can prevent a knee-jerk, reactive decision by stopping and attempting to understand the whole scenario related to your decision. The easiest way to do this is to reach out to someone on your team, a business mentor or an adviser who can play the informed devil’s advocate. Who to reach out to will depend on the level of confidentiality of your decision and whether there are people within your company who are qualified to assist you.

This act of discussion provides two benefits. Someone who thinks very differently from you will ask you questions, raise concerns and provide insights that you may not have considered (two heads are better than one, after all). In addition, the act of explaining the scenario and your options will help you clarify your own thinking, even before the other person’s input is offered. Remember, the key is to discuss your options not with someone who thinks just like you — which will prevent you from obtaining the full picture — but with someone who does or can respectfully challenge your thinking.

3. Make Your Decision

Now that you have determined your primary objective, specified the criteria, consulted with another individual and identified options, your next step is to make your decision considering the resources you’ve accessed. Remember that your goal is to make the best decision possible in a timely manner with the information you have. There are no perfect decisions; instead, there are decisions that are optimal, when your or your company’s objectives and criteria are considered.

4. Develop Approaches and Actions

According to a research paper published on the Mitre Corporation site, “When expert decision-makers respond to a situation, they rapidly determine the most appropriate course of action.” An expert decision-maker has an internal database of knowledge, experience, previous action and a skill set that is tuned to the environment. This means that, as a decision-maker, you should not only have a library of patterned approaches, but also have a repertoire of actions. As you make increasingly important decisions, these will help you continue to improve your rapid decision-making skills.

To build your internal database and an environmentally-tuned skill set, you could supplement training in a particular subject with drills and experience that emphasize information selection rather than knowledge-building.

This process can help you with decisions that take minutes, hours or days. The length of time depends on both how complex and how critical on a case-by-case basis. However, as you continue to use the “know-think-do” process and use your experiences to develop approaches and actions, the time required for your rapid decision-making in all situations will significantly decrease. Developing these leadership skills may require training and experience, so, if applicable, seek out opportunities for both.

Tiffany C. Wright
Tiffany C. Wright

Tiffany C. Wright is the author of The Funding Is Out There!, Access the Cash You Need to Impact Your Business and Solving the Capital Equation: Financing Solutions for Small Businesses. She is the founder of The Resourceful CEO, which helps owners of small/medium-sized businesses prepare their businesses for sale. Tiffany has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, sits on non-profit boards and serves as a business mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation.